Over The Counter PSAP/Hearing Aid Sound Quality Check

Over-The-Counter (OTC) Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAP) or Hearing Aid (HAs) are for people with mild high frequency HL (hearing loss). Like OTC reading glasses for mild vision loss. Smith et al. (2016) found 100% of low cost PSAP (<$150), 66% of high cost PSAP (>$150) and 66% of low cost HAs (<$500/one) failed to work as claimed by the manufacturer. Sound quality was too loud (over amplified) with static and distortion. Directional microphones, must-have speech in noise communication feature, didn’t work. This science found only 2 OTC PSAP/HAs worked as claimed:

  • Sound quality passes: OTC PSAP = Soundhawk (~$350); best OTC HA = Hanaston Base m2 (~$800/pair).
  • Sound quality fails: OTC HA MD Hearing Aid Pro and PSAPs Williams Sound Pockettalker Ultra, Cyberscience Amplifier, Woodland Whisper and EarMachine app (all apps failed).

Noise Reduction and Feedback Reduction are not must-have features especially with a mild hearing amplifier. Neither helps communication for speech in noise.

A 3 month return period is standard for most product manufacturers. Is it satisfaction guaranteed or all your money back? Or do you have to pay to return the product (e.g. shipping costs). So you have less money than before buying the “low cost” OTC product.

The Over-The-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 in USA means less mfg oversight now than before it passed in July. Less consumer protection. How ironic people with hearing loss can’t trust sound quality because companies are manufacturing low cost PSAP/HAS that are defective. Lemons.

  1. Is PSAP/HA sound over-amplified or too loud for comfort?
  2. Is there static?
  3. Is there distortion or unclear sounds and voices?
  4. Do the directional microphones work? Speech from in front should be louder than sound from behind. Boosting voices wearer is facing over any background noise.
  5. If it has it, does the hearing loop or telecoil feature work?

If your OTC PSAP/HAs are lemons, return them.

Imagine if this was vision healthcare. Nobody would accept low cost OTC reading glasses with blurry distorted lenses and magnification that didn’t match the magnification label. Too bad hearing healthcare is not equal to vision healthcare.

Jan’s Book Portfolio

Jan L. Mayes MSc writes horror fiction and non-fiction, and is an international Eric Hoffer Award winning author, blogger and audiologist specializing in noise, tinnitus-hyperacusis, hearing health education and plotting murders. Her writing has been featured at Tinnitus Today, Communique, silencity.com and The Horror News Daily.

  1. Banks, L. (2017). The Top 6 Most Reputable Hearing Aid Brands. Everyday Hearing. Online May 30, 2017. https://www.everydayhearing.com/hearing-aids/articles/top-6-most-reputable-hearing-aid-brands/
  2. Smith C, Wilber LA, Cavitt K. (2016). PSAPs vs Hearing Aids: An Electroacoustic Analysis of Performance and Fitting Capabilities. Hearing Review. 2016;23(7):18. http://www.hearingreview.com/2016/06/psaps-vs-hearing-aids-electroacoustic-analysis-performance-fitting-capabilities/
  3. Pociask, S. (2017). The myth of OTC hearing aids. The Hill. Published online July 10, 2017. http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/healthcare/341257-the-myth-of-otc-hearing-aids#.Wccrv-2AnWM.facebook
  4. Published on March 21, 2017. Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 Introduced in Congress. The Hearing Review. http://www.hearingreview.com/2017/03/counter-hearing-aid-act-2017-introduced-congress/